Patent lawyers counsel clients on patent and intellectual property law. The path to become a patent lawyer requires many years of education as well as extremely specialized knowledge within the field of law. Typically, a student must earn a bachelor's degree, complete law school and pass several intensive exams to become a patent lawyer. Strong communication skills can play a crucial role in the field of patent law, and a background in technology or science may help an aspiring lawyer succeed.
The government issues patents to prevent people from copying an original idea or from making money by imitating another person's invention. Likewise, intellectual property rights protect an author's book from plagiarism or a company's trade secret from being stolen, such as the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken's Original Recipe. Patent lawyers typically manage patents or intellectual property belonging to their clients and initiate legal proceedings against anyone who infringes upon their clients' protected property.
A student working to become a patent lawyer often chooses to earn a degree in a science or engineering field because of the technical aspects of those degrees; some countries require students to earn degrees in engineering or natural sciences or other related fields to become a patent lawyer. Other important skills include excellent reading, writing and communication abilities. Patent attorneys often read extremely long and detailed documents and must be able to effectively communicate with a wide range of people. To later be accepted to a competitive top law school, students generally need to maintain a high grade point average in their undergraduate studies. During the junior year of college, students can typically begin to prepare for the law school admissions tests required by their area, such as the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) in the United States (U.S.).
After obtaining an undergraduate degree and passing the LSAT exam, students can attend an accredited law school. Law school generally takes three years to complete, and upon graduation a student is awarded the Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree. If a law student plans to become a patent lawyer, he or she can take as many specific courses on patent, trademark and copyright law as possible during law school years. Upon completion of law school, prospective lawyers typically must pass certification exams required by their region, such as the Bar Exam in the U.S.
To become a patent lawyer, individuals may be required to complete more specialization tests. In the U.S., students are required to pass a separate Patent Bar Exam in addition the general test. In Canada, students are required to work in the field for a year before taking four qualifying exams. In some countries students are required to work for a patent attorney for a specified number of years before working independently.